Simon Schama wrote an excellent essay, "The Story So Far," for the Guardian, in which he reports on the decade, the noughties, from the point of view of an oracular, fully digitized historian named Sybil, a century from now. It is funny and bleak and, well, oracular. Schama is brilliant.

New Year's Day is the most important holiday in Japan. The Japanese New Year greeting is "Akemashite, omedetou gozaimasu!" which simply means "Opening, congratulations!" It started me thinking about opening, about being open to ideas and knowledge and possibilities, and about how hard this attitude is to maintain in daily life. So much comes at us in the course of a day or month or year, and of course it's impossible to take it all in. But I'm increasingly aware of how much I block out. I fool myself into thinking that I understand issues so I don't have to pay too much attention to them. My resolution this year is to try to notice, in particular, the things I think I understand, but don't, and then to learn about them. Happily, there's no shortage of material.

Happy Year of the Rooster!

I know it's a belated greeting, but it makes sense somehow. Our roosters are always late. They are famous for it. They go to bed late at night, and they get up late in the morning, and so do all our hens.

It is tempting to blame the roosters, but it’s not their fault. It’s our fault, or rather it’s my husband’s fault, because even though we’ve lived in the country for almost eight years now, he still maintains an urban artist’s preference for working late into the night. So he gets up late, thereby training the chickens to do the same. They are very patient chickens. They have learned to accept what they cannot change, in this case symbiosis with slacker humans and the futility of crowing at dawn.

When we give chickens away to real farmers, we always get complaints. “All our other chickens go to bed at dusk, but your silkies are still scratching and pecking and hanging out around the water bucket until long after dark. And in the morning, they won’t come out of the coop.”

Of course, I could get up early and let them out, but I don’t. And if I’m going to post a new year’s greeting three weeks late, what right do I have to complain about my husband or my chickens?

The Year of the Rooster is getting off to a good start. A friend told me about a nice custom, which involves the rolling of nine perfect oranges through one's front door to welcome abundance and luck into the house, and so we did this. (The other part of the ritual involved a thorough cleaning of one's kitchen, top to bottom, which we also did, but with less assiduity.) And now I’m heading to Cambridge, to MIT, where I’m going to spend the first week of March as the Katzenstein Writer-in-Residence. This is very cool. To paraphrase a former Katzenstein Writer-in-Residence, “I love being invited to schools I never could have gotten into.”

Geek, my character from All Over Creation, dropped out of MIT. I suppose I could write a sequel, and have him go back. During the residency, I'm going to be doing a film screening, and a public reading, which will be fun, but by far the most selfishly exciting part will be visiting labs and talking to really smart people about their work. This is where ideas for stories come from. I wonder what I’ll learn? I wonder what themes will emerge, what characters will be born from these encounters?

Before I leave for the airport, I want to take a moment and thank all of you who have been reading the blog postings about my mom over the past year and who have responded with such compassion to the news of her death. It’s kind of strange. I don’t know why I felt compelled to share her story here in cyberspace, in such a public forum. But caring for her has been so central to my life these past ten years, I guess it was only natural to want to write about her. It seemed like a good thing to do. So thank you for reading, and for writing to me, and for letting mom into your hearts.

Best wishes for the new year!

mom and me, on the ferry